Networked Pneumatics Actuate Success

Printing Press Builder Delivers Lowest Total Cost of Ownership in New Generation of Flexographic Presses

By Rich Rogals, PCMC

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Competitiveness for OEMs today is all about anticipating total customer needs, and then delivering a complete solution. Our customers buy our printing technology because of quality. There is more we can do to help, and that is why we dove into the motion architecture to find strategic solutions that would not only lower operating and support costs, but also support high throughput.

SEE ALSO: Linear Motion Goes Beyond Point B

Paper Converting Machine Co. (PCMC) is a leading global manufacturer of wide- and narrow-format printing equipment, as well as paper and wipes converting and packaging solutions. In 2009, PCMC began design of Fusion and FusionMax, its next generation wide-web high-speed flexographic printers.

Fusion is an eight- to 10-color, 1,500 ft/min (450 mpm) flexographic press available in 42, 52 and 59 in. widths. FusionMax is offered in 66 and 75 in. print widths. These state-of-the-art printing presses offer a host of benefits, including a 60-minute changeover and full-press, automated washup in four to eight minutes. The press also delivers the sustainability benefits of low solvent use and low energy consumption. Jason Manders, PCMC product line manager, estimates that these machines can be 40% lower in terms of total energy consumption compared to our competition, and use about half as much as our previous generation machines. Solvent usage can be about a third of similar, competitive machines.

"In our development of the Fusion and FusionMax, PCMC went deeper than state-of-the-art printing technology," says Rodney Pennings, value stream leader for PCMC. "The company delivered machines that drive toward lowest total cost of ownership (LTCOO) and highest overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The triple focus on print, cost, and throughput led the company to identify motion actuation systems as strategic to LTCOO and OEE, and it placed substantial design and engineering resources behind networked pneumatic actuation."

Manders says this initiative was both a response to customer needs and an effort by PCMC to proactively seek competitive advantage. "We're pretty competitive with our pricing," he adds, so these benefits don't really come at a premium for our customers."

Pneumatics Not High on Wish List
Below the surface, the Fusion and FusionMax printers are complex, motion-controlled devices with hundreds of actuated-motion adjustments made automatically throughout setup, operation, and cleanup stages of a print run. "Linear actuators and rotary cam-based motion, both powered by pneumatics, can perform many of the motions on the presses," explains Doug Zilz, fluid power designer, PCMC. "While a single linear or cam motion is relatively simple, groups of actuators can be synchronized for complex multiple-motion operations such as bringing a doctor chamber into position and applying pressure on it."

PCMC designers performed a cost-benefit analysis between pneumatic and electro-mechanical activation for these numerous motions, including the Vortex ink delivery and wash-up systems. The motion tasks include engaging doctor chamber to print roll and locking doctor blade in position. Pneumatic actuation was the clear cost-benefit leader when they considered component cost, small footprint, and overall operational, maintenance, and inventory costs.

There's a lot of interest in migration to electro-mechanical solutions in many machine builder industries because of simplicity. And many companies think a compressed air solution is messier, more difficult, and costly utility to manage. Those options, however, don't come into play here.

"A solvent-based ink environment means motion components have to be classified as Class 1, Division II-compliant," Zilz explains. "Pneumatics makes that much easier than having compliant electronic devices. The variety of complaint devices might not be there in an electro-mechanical solution."

In addition, says Jacqueline MacPherson, Festo industry segment manager for printing, paper and converting, "A designer must always weigh many factors to compare the advantages for the use of electro-mechanical products. Those factors are speed and accuracy requirements, cost comparison and foot print into which the actuator must be placed. With the example of the doctor blade loading the area in which the actuator mounts is very small. An electro-mechanical solution would not fit within this area. Speed and accuracy were not needed for this function and therefore the pneumatic solution was cost effective and fit within the space constraints." MacPherson worked for PCMC during the Fusion and FusionMax development and rollout.

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